This month I’m talking with Rock Hill author Kimberly Lynne whose debut novel, A Pocketwatch, Spray Paint & Morphine, was released this week!
“An unrecognizable Boom compels Viv, a retired librarian, out of her perfumed bubble bath. Dripping, confused, and curious, she soon finds the neighborhood emptier than her own nest. Her cherished husband is unreachable. Her geriatric spaniel is missing, as are all other creatures, except a single fish in a bowl.
As though thrust into a post-apocalyptic novel from her library shelves, Viv, no doomsday prepper, scours her deserted town for answers. Instead, she finds disparate survivors as unprepared as she: a pregnant young wunderkind, a cagey physics professor, and a boy too reminiscent of her own lost son.”
A Writers’ Window: The first time I heard an excerpt from Kim’s novel was earlier in the year when she read at an open mic. Her sensory details had us right there in that grocery store where the smells and sights weren’t what you’d expect on one’s weekly shopping trip. In her writing, Kim captures all the nuances that we register subconsciously, but may not always note on a conscious level – be these sensory or emotional. This is what others are saying about Kimberly’s book.
“A post-apocalyptic adventure with the smarts of Michael Crichton. An addictive read.”
—Scott Wilbanks, author of The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster
“Author Kimberly Lynne writes about a mysterious world-altering event with incredible compassion in a compelling debut that explores the connections between strangers, and the power of hope. A Pocket Watch, Spray Paint, and Morphine: How Viv the Librarian Weathers the Boom is a novel brimming with humanity.”
—Hayley Stone, author of Machinations and Counterpart
Here is what Kim has to say about her novel and her writing life. I know you’ll enjoy her wit and down-to-earthiness as much as I do.
A Writer’s Window: What was the seed for A Pocketwatch, Spray Paint & Morphine?
Kimberly Lynne: I’d known for awhile I wanted to get back to writing after the nest was empty. I think many women experience that ‘mid-life crisis/change’ thingy as a regrouping time. Our lives haven’t turned out—or the world we’re living in hasn’t turned out – quite the way we planned for or expected. So there’s an opportunity to look around, inventory our resources, discard some cluttery-type commitments, and refocus. That’s the ground the seed was planted in, I suppose, more than the actual seed itself.
I’d been having some very strange dreams . . . blame hormones or sunspots . . . A couple of themes kept recurring: me, choking on a huge wad of gum, and no matter how much I pulled off my teeth it just kept getting bigger. Not pleasant. And descending various flights of stairs that about half-way down began to disintegrate. Rotting wood, creaky timbers, typical haunted-house stairs with something very creepy at the bottom.
A bit of interwebs research (cheaper than a therapist, right?) led me to find a dream symbol dictionary. There, I learned, whether true or not, that choking meant I had something I needed to say, and my subconscious was somehow keeping me from saying it. And descending stairways are supposedly a path into our pasts. And because the stairs kept falling apart under me, my subconscious self didn’t want to go there.
Thus prodded, I began some half-hearted journaling. Coming to terms with where I’d been and where I was now. (I do want to make it clear that I had a lovely childhood with loving parents, and a very happy marriage as an adult. Totally boringly normal.) Whatever issues my dream-brain was conjuring up, were minor in the grand scheme, or perhaps, as Scrooge said, nothing more than the product of a bit of bad beef.
One night I just woke up, gasping for breath, as if I’d been drowning in a tub. The HandyDude wasn’t in bed next to me. Our dog, usually snoring along in harmony, was deathly quiet. For a moment, I felt as if I were the only being left in the world. And from there, Viv’s story coalesced within moments. The first draft took about four months to finish, and then the long hard work of creating something read-worthy began. Five years later, here we are.
A Writer’s Window: I love your cast of characters! Who was the most fun to write? Who was the most challenging? Why?
Kimberly Lynne: Hard choice. I love Wade dearly. They say all books (especially debuts) are autobiographical, and I’ll freely admit that there are many elements in Viv’s story I relate to on a deeply personal level. But her life isn’t mine. Wade, personality wise, is very much a reflection of my son when he was younger – thoughtful, insightful, geekily awkward, affectionate, with a very strong internal sense of justice. Wade just wrote himself through my fingers. He’s a great kid. The relationship between Dionne, the wunderkind (who’s much more loosely modeled on my math-genius daughter) and Marlowe, the professor, was uncharted territory for me. I had to really feel my way through those two. Lots of false starts and backtracking.
A Writer’s Window: How do you define ‘soft science fiction’? How is it different from regular science fiction?
Kimberly Lynne: When I think ‘regular’ sci-fi, I primarily get images of space. Interstellar travel, extra-terrestrial life, robots, AI. The future world, perhaps? Or a different world altogether. I also include medical, technical, real-world exploration and AI in the ‘hard’ sci-fi category, a la Michael Crichton. And somehow, the science has to be based in reality, despite being fiction, the internal logic has to hold together. I love reading these kinds of ‘hard’ sci-fi stories, and I have huge admiration for the authors that can weave hard technical facts and imaginative world-building so seamlessly.
I dove pretty deep into researching the electricity/magnetism aspects of Viv’s altered world – but the “Physics for Dummies” version proved about as much as I could grasp. I’m sure physicists will find plenty to wince at. But it was also important to me not to try to explain every single thing. Acceptance of the things we cannot change (or understand) is a theme that carries throughout the story.
Speculative fiction might be a better term than “soft” sci-fi. We speculate about that one ‘what if’ question. What if the world we know were different by only one small (or very large) detail? The focus of the story then becomes not the event or the environment, but instead something much more personal. How does the character change? What will she learn when her fundamental beliefs are challenged in such a three-dimensional way? How will this person come to cope in that new ‘what if’ environment? How does she come to live in a world that’s nothing like what she expected? Refer back to question 1.
I’m a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and their definition of ‘women’s fiction’ is that the story’s focus is a women’s emotional journey. By that definition, Viv’s story is very much women’s fiction, but I have hopes it will appeal to a broader base of readers that romance or beach read fans . . . my abhorrence of the ‘chick-lit’ term is a topic for another day. I accept that this book is genre-sprawly and doesn’t neatly fit into a tidy little box. Label it what you will.
A Writer’s Window: What, if any, ‘survivalist techniques’ did you research or practice for your novel?
Kimberly Lynne: This makes me smile. Our family did go through a bit of a couponing/stockpiling spree in advance of my husband’s pending retirement several years ago. I had a bonus room closet full of TP, rice, aluminum foil, whatever I could get for pennies that wouldn’t go bad. We’re still using up a monster case of bar soap, and I donated a lot of – okay, I’ll say ‘hoarded’ – supplies to local shelters when we downsized this past spring.
But we’re an outdoorsy bunch, camping, hiking and the like, so roughing it is in the blood. I can clean my own fish, but it’s a gloppy, prickly sort of task I’d much rather leave to the market. I’ve eaten plenty of game, from rattlesnake and alligator, to deer, dove, squirrel, and turtle, thanks to the hunters in my extended family. I’d have to be pretty desperate to butcher Bambi myself, but I’d like to think I could rise to the occasion if the choices were that or starve.
Plants are more my comfort zone. I’ve had an abundant veggie garden, but missed it this year due to our move in the spring. We did a project with my daughter when homeschooling that involved making acorn flour. It’s a lot of work for not much product, and doesn’t taste very appealing. My dad and aunt took me mushroom hunting when I was a girl and I’ve been on several wild-edible walks. There are some excellent reference books out there. I’m happy to share my recipes for Stir-fried Day Lily Buds, Cream of Sour-grass Soup, or Puffballs & Eggs. All feature ingredients I’ve cut from my own backyard. I grew up harvesting wild muscadines, blackberries, persimmons, and so forth, and cutting wild greens beside railroad tracks. Poke ‘sallit’ is not my favorite. I thank my depression-era parents for the ‘get it free” spirit, my ‘try anything once’ older sister for encouraging some well-informed experimentation. I might have a slim chance of surviving the zombie apocalypse.
A Writer’s Window: Please describe your writing space. How does it compare to your ideal writing space?
Kimberly Lynne: Before we downsized, I wrote at a counter top at a bonus-room window overlooking our expansive suburban front lawn and woodsy ‘beyond-the-lawn’. Lots of lovely distractions: hawks swooping at squirrels, bunnies galore, the twice daily commute of a huge flock of crows, and the heavenly scent of a flowering tea olive tree in the spring and fall when the window stood wide. Since this past May, our house is about half the size, but I now have a dedicated studio in one of the spare bedrooms. Desk, bookshelves, a bulletin board for inspiration. Ample, organized storage for office supplies is a delight. My drafting table is out of storage, so I’m able to work on some colored pencil and pen & ink projects as well. It’s in the sunniest corner of the house, and I really love having space all my own to let the quirky out.
A Writer’s Window: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?
Kimberly Lynne: Reading is no doubt my favorite leisure activity. I’ve got a TBR list a mile long, and I try to read some fiction and something either scripture or devotional every single day. I love discovering debut & unknown authors, so readers, if you’ve found that latest gem, please let me know! Making art, seeing art, though as I age I’m finding myself more into the visual than performance side. My rock concert days are behind me. Now, I love the sound of silence. Museums, aquariums, arboretums, gardens, historical sites or geological wonders . . . anyplace I can go and enjoy the scenery AND learn something at the same time. I’d love to hear your readers’ suggestions for the off-the-beaten-path stops. Tell me your favorite hole-in-the-wall BBQ joint and I might meet you there one day.
Outdoorsy but not athletic means you might find me at the golf course or riding on the back of HandyDude’s Suzuki when the weather is perfect, but my fibromyalgia has historically made it tough to cope with temperature extremes. A recent med change gives me hope that I might be up to tackling a ropes course or zip-lining sometime soon. I did my one-and-only baby triathlon back in 2016 and didn’t die, so yah for me. Scuba lessons are on the Christmas wish list now that I’ve found an optometrist who’s willing to experiment and work with me — my vision simply sucks. As mentioned before, hiking, camping, nature walks, wildlife watching. Anything nature-oriented.
And always home and garden. I’m grateful for the cooler weather to get our asparagus and day lily transplants back in the ground for next spring. I like to grow veg because I like to cook because I like to eat! Tell me about your favorite cheese, please. HandyDude and I have a list a page long of things we’d like to do around the new (to us) house and yard. I’m really glad to have a functional — and pretty new laundry room! Thanks, Hon!
And thanks to you, Kim, and your readers for having me here.
A Writers’ Window: Thank you Kim! Congratulations on the release of your debut novel.
A Pocketwatch, Spray Paint & Morphine is available through Amazon
Follow Kim at Kimberly Lynne’s Curiosities